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Entrance to Shaping Europe second floor

Shaping Europe

What is Europe? Geography shows us that Europe has never been a clearly defined space. The continent’s name comes from the ancient Greek myth of Europa, a story that has been re-interpreted, like history itself, from various points of view over time. Europe is described through its achievements and traditions but what distinguishes it from other continents? Can we say that we have a shared European past when history has affected people differently? Can we find any commonality – a reservoir of European memory?

Mapping Europe

Where does Europe begin and where does it end? Since ancient times it’s described as being distinct; culturally and historically shaped – yet geographically, Europe and Asia are one continent.

Europe’s interest in maps and map-making has a long and varied history reaching back to ancient Greece and Rome. The discovery of sea routes to the Americas in the 15th century changed not only Europeans’ views of the known world but also how they saw themselves.

The myth of Europe

Europa, a mythical princess from Phoenicia – today´s Lebanon – is abducted by the Greek god Zeus, who appears to her in the form of a white bull. Having fallen in love with her beauty, he takes her to the island of Crete.

Europe’s name has been associated with this myth from antiquity to the present. It appears in art, literature, religion and politics, where the story and imagery are often reinterpreted to reflect the issues of the day.

European heritage

What binds the continent together? What could be regarded as European heritage?

Europe is more than the addition of national histories, but is it a civilization and culture characterised by particular traditions and values developed through history?

There are basic elements which are originally European and have spread all over the continent. Can these be considered distinct hallmarks of European culture? If so, what parts of this European heritage should we preserve, what do we want to change, what should we contest?


If we remember the past can we avoid repeating its mistakes? Memory is seen as essential. Whether for individuals or for social groups it is the basis of learning and self-awareness.

Yet, memory is a complicated phenomenon. It is selective and inseparably aligned with oblivion. Our memoires are a vital part of history and deeply influence our present and our future. How we remember the same history constantly changes.